the algarve: the once-mighty town of silves

Monday, July 15:  After leaving Alte, Jo, Mick and I drive further west to Silves in the Algarve, where we find a pretty smattering of orange rooftops above the banks of the Rio Arade.  The river used to be an important trade route for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. When the Moors invaded in the 8th century, the town gained prominence because of its strategic hilltop and riverside location.  According to Lonely Planet Portugal, it rivaled Lisbon in prosperity from the mid-11th to the mid-13th centuries.

Much later the river became silted up, causing disease and hindering maritime trade.  Other Algarve ports gained in importance, and Silves became a shadow of its former self.

Approaching Silves by way of the Rio Arade
Approaching Silves by way of the Rio Arade
I guess the tide has gone out on this boat
I guess the tide has gone out on this boat
Bridge over the Rio Arade
Bridge over the Rio Arade

We begin our climb to the Castelo de Silves, and walk through the pretty little town on our way uphill.

entering Silves
entering Silves

In June 1189, Dom Sancho I laid siege to the town, supported by a bunch of mostly English crusaders, who plundered and stripped the Moors of their possessions, tortured those remaining and wrecked the town.  Two years later the Moors recaptured the town until 1249, when the Christians regained control for good.

streets of Silves
streets of Silves

On top of the silting up of the river and the growth of other Algarve ports, the 1755 earthquake struck the final blow to the town.  It wasn’t until the 19th century that local cork and dried-fruit industries revitalized the town.  Today the economy of the town revolves around tourism and agriculture (Lonely Planet Portugal).

I love the tiled facades of Portuguese houses
I love the tiled facades of Portuguese houses
colorful Portuguese tiles
colorful Portuguese tiles

Many places in Portugal are known for their stork’s nests, which are frequently photographed.  I can’t resist taking one picture myself.

stork's nest on a chimney in Silves
stork’s nest on a chimney in Silves
pretty square in Silves
pretty square in Silves

Sé de Silves (Cathedral of Silves) is one of the Algarve’s few remaining Gothic monuments.  It was built in 1189 on the site of an earlier mosque, then rebuilt after the 1249 Reconquista and restored later several times after earthquakes.

Silves Cathedral
Silves Cathedral

The Cathedral has a multi-arched Portuguese Gothic doorway.

Silves Cathedral
Silves Cathedral

We finally reach the top of the hill where we enter the Castelo de Silves.  We enter the russet-colored walls and walk around the ramparts, admiring the views of the town and countryside below. The castle was most likely built in the 11th century and then abandoned by the 16th century, according to Lonely Planet Portugal. The fort was restored in the 1940s and is a combination of Islamic and Christian styles.

entrance to the Castelo de Silves
entrance to the Castelo de Silves

The castle once sheltered the old Moorish ‘alcáçova’ which was the residence of the lord of the city. Not much remains of the defensive walls and towers which protected Silves, but one of the four gates remains and is the ‘Torreão da Porta da Cidade’ (The turret of the City Gate). (SilvesUncovered.com)

view from the Castelo de Silves
view from the Castelo de Silves
inside the walls of the Castelo de Silves
inside the walls of the Castelo de Silves
Castelo de Silves
Castelo de Silves
view of Silves from inside the castle walls
view of Silves from inside the castle walls
gardens in the Castelo de Silves
gardens in the Castelo de Silves
rooftop views from the Castelo de Silves
rooftop views from the Castelo de Silves
view from the castle
view from the castle
gardens inside the castle
gardens inside the castle
Castelo de Silves
Castelo de Silves
view of Silves from the castle
view of Silves from the castle
walls of Castelo de Silves
walls of Castelo de Silves
some Moorish remnants
some Moorish remnants
a watchtower at Castelo de Silves
a watchtower at Castelo de Silves

Once again, you can see I’m captivated by the tiled walls and pretty windows of Portuguese buildings.

pretty Portuguese windows in Silves
pretty Portuguese windows in Silves

I also love the scruffy look of many of the buildings, with their peeling paint and cracked or missing window panes.

I love this shabby chic building
I love this shabby chic building

After Silves, we head back to Tavira to rest a bit before heading out for dinner.  Jo has promised me both a fig and almond gelato and a glass of port, all in one night (!), so I look forward to our night on the town.

To read Jo’s account of Silves, please see: S is for Silves

10 thoughts on “the algarve: the once-mighty town of silves

    1. Haha, yes, well at least we did get some kind of fig ice cream, though it wasn’t exactly the promised one! I did get the port, and I must say I enjoyed it very much.🙂

      I’m glad you like my photos; Silves was a great place to take pictures, as was much of Portugal!!

      I already checked out Third Eye Mom and joined her blog. It was the York River; I don’t know if you saw the links I sent that I wrote about the York River. Maybe they went into your Spam.

      I’ll never remember the name of that flower, but it is really pretty. Tell Mick thanks for informing me of its name. Yes, back to sorting my life!🙂 And of course, you’re welcome for the link.

      1. Oh dear, your poor dad! I’m sure he does manage to keep other flowers and plants alive, especially if he really loves gardening. Your dad is such a character!🙂

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